What are your relationship goals for 2018?
What? Goals, you say?
We have no relationship goals. We just go from day to day hoping for the best. And no, things have not gotten better and we are not where we want to be as a couple. (this could also apply to friendships or parent-child relationships.) However, we don’t do anything about it because we don’t know what to do.
Anyone remember this refrain from Shari Lewis’ Lambkin show? Perhaps this could this be your relationship?
“Same song, second verse, a little bit faster and a little bit worse!”
To quote Dr. Phil: How is that working for you?
Stop for a moment right now while you are reading this post, and take a look at the image at the top. The Sound Relationship house, created by the Gottman Institute, will help you know what kind of goals you need to set. The walls of this house, Trust and Commitment, are the first thing to notice. Believe me, if those two walls are shaky, your relationship is going to be wobbly at best, or crumbling at worst. But moving beyond that, start at the bottom of the house. How’s the friendship part of your relationship? Do you know what’s going on in your partner’s head? Heart? That could be a relationship goal: to become better friends. Moving up from there, ask yourself how much your admire your partner. Does your partner feel admired? If not, that could be a goal. You get the idea. Each of the levels of this house offers a way to assess and work on your primary relationship.
If trust and commitment are shaky, your relationship is going to be wobbly at best, or crumbling at worst.
When a new couple comes into my office, I make it a point to give them a copy of the sound relationship house. After they have told me why they are coming to therapy, I ask them to look at the house and tell me where they believe their biggest problems fall. The good news is that most couples agree about the “where” of things. They know they can’t manage conflict, or they no longer admire each other. They can tell me clearly that trust has been broken or the commitment is rocky. Setting clear goals to work on these issues helps immediately to focus our efforts.
Years ago, before I was using this Sound Relationship model, a couple I had been seeing for a good while had hit a bit of a plateau in the therapy. Things were better, but they weren’t where they hoped to be. Somehow, (I give the Holy Spirit a lot of credit when I do something that really works) I decided to ask them what their dreams were for their marriage and for their lives. They both looked at me with blank faces. “We’ve never asked ourselves that question,” I remember the husband saying. “We’ve never talked about our dreams for our marriage…or our lives for that matter.”
Boom. That hour everything changed in their relationship. They made the decision to have as their goal that year to make a list of their marriage dreams and to start figuring out how they could make those dreams come true. It wasn’t magic, although at first it felt like that to them.
Here are some goals I have heard friends and clients make recently:
- We are going to take personal responsibility for the ways we speak to each other during times of conflict.
- We are going to spend more time with friends and people we love.
- At least once a week I am going to ask my partner meaningful questions about what is going on in their head and heart. (How and What questions are best for this.)
- I am going to keep a “memo” on my phone of the positive things I notice about my wife.
- We have always wanted to go to Italy, so now we are actively planning how we are going to make that happen.
- A dream we have had is to do something together that gives back to the community. We are looking for a way to be involved in a charitable activity that we can do together.
- I am not going to walk away when we get in a fight. I am going to make myself stay put and work it through.
Add your own goals. You might even want to make a vision map for your relationship. With your partner, look at the Sound Relationship House and figure out where your relationship needs help. And get to work. Because things rarely change without intentional effort. And life is messy enough, Friends. Let’s be intentional about keeping our relationships marvelous.
Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com